1 9 7 5 – 1 9 7 7 (USA)
48 x 30 minute episodes
Cloris Leachman would star in her own series and continue to play the character she so skilfully portrayed for five seasons on MTM, Phyllis Lindstrom.
Phyllis had been Mary’s landlady in The Mary Tyler Moore Show but was now widowed from her never-seen husband Lars, and had moved to San Francisco with her daughter Bess (Lisa Gerritsen) to live with Lars’ mother Audrey (Jane Rose) and her new husband Judge Johnathan Dexter (Henry Jones) at 4482 Bayview Drive.
Phyllis soon found work as an assistant at Erskine’s Commercial Photography Studio owned by Julie Erskine (played by Barbara Colby initially and then Liz Torres).
Leo Heatherton (Richard Schaal) was the dim-witted single photographer who had been a guest star numerous times on MTM and was Valerie Harper’s (aka Rhoda) real-life husband at the time.
The second season format dropped Julie and Leo as Phyllis found work as a secretary at the San Francisco Board of Directors. Caramine Caridi played Phyllis’ new boss Dan Valenti, Garn Stephens played Phyllis’ co-worker Harriet, and John Lawlor played the dim-witted supervisor Leonard Marsh.
Judith Lowry was introduced in the first season as Johnathan’s outspoken eighty-seven-year-old mother, Sally (Mother) Dexter who moved in with them. Phyllis and Bess were also still living with Johnathan and Audrey.
Mother Dexter was married during the second season to a ninety-one-year-old man. Bess also married Dan’s nephew Mark toward the end of the series. Mark and Bess also moved in with Johnathan and Audrey.
A few tragedies embraced the Phyllis set from the beginning. After only the third episode had been filmed, actress Barbara Colby (who played Julie) was murdered by gang members in a drive-by shooting.
Judith Lowry (who played Mother Dexter) died in December 1976, a few weeks before the wedding episode was telecast. Episodes were filmed earlier then, so Mother Dexter would appear almost until the last episode.
The show began with great ratings and reviews (the #6 show of the 1975-76 season) but ratings declined in the second season and the show was abruptly taken off the air after only 48 episodes.
Judge Johnathan Dexter
Barbara Colby (1)
Liz Torres (2)
Sally “Mother” Dexter